Editorial: Give it more time for revenue from Rivers Casino

New development could boost distributions to local government
Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady.
Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady.

If you actually believed the rosy projections put forth by casino operators, developers and some government officials about how much money the new Schenectady casino was going to generate for local governments, then you should probably stay away from any activity that involves betting.

Nobody should be surprised, or freaked out, over the lower-than-anticipated revenues being distributed to local governments and school districts from the new Rivers Casino.

When we endorsed the state Gaming Commission’s issuance of a license for the new casino back in 2014, we cautioned that projections might not meet the expectations.

We also reminded readers that the casino should be viewed not as a financial savior for the region, but as a complement to the other attractions in and around Schenectady, including Proctors, downtown businesses, new hotels, new retail establishments and other new construction on the former Alco locomotive factory site.

So far, it appears local officials have wisely taken a cautious approach in their budgeting of casino dollars. Even if they anticipate the revenue could increase, they should continue to play it safe and budget as if revenues will continue to fall below expectations.

While revenues might never be as high as when a casino first opens, the good news is there is legitimate reason to believe this particular casino hasn’t reached its full potential.

To start, the casino opened in the middle of February. That’s not exactly peak tourist season. And five months isn’t a lot of time to ramp up advertising and marketing efforts to the fullest.

Another consideration: Unlike many places where a new casino is a stand-alone venture, the Schenectady casino is but one component of an expanding economic climate.

The 165-room Landing Hotel, which is attached to the casino and will offer casino rewards to its customers, opens this week. That should be an enticement to new players and generate more money for government.

The 106-room Homewood Suites by Hilton only opened across the river in Glenville in May. And the 124-room Courtyard by Marriott at Mohawk Harbor, also on the Alco site, has only been open since October. They have yet to fulfill their potential as contributors to casino revenues.

Other features of the Mohawk Harbor site that also could potentially boost casino revenue —including the 206-unit Riverhouse apartment complex and retail stores, the Harbor Center retail/office complex, and the 15 planned townhouses — are all expected to open within the coming weeks and months.

And maybe once they finally smooth out Erie Boulevard this fall, more people will be willing to risk their kidneys and their vehicles’ shock absorbers and give the casino a try.

So while it’s certainly reasonable to view the casino revenues as disappointing, it’s premature to consider the figures fait accompli.

Give it more time before declaring it a success or failure.

In the meantime, governments should continue to budget prudently and get ready to be happy if the financial picture improves.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion


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